Clark Ray, candidate for D.C. Council at-large

By Colbert I. King
Saturday, May 1, 2010

This is the first of several occasional looks at candidates in key 2010 D.C. contests.

Can a former point guard with the Battlin' Buckaroos down in Smackover, Ark. (claim to fame: the only center-of-the-road traffic light in Arkansas), come to the nation's capital and topple a veteran D.C. Council member who prides himself on being a picker of nits?

Let's explore this question together.

Clark Ray, former class president and star athlete of Smackover High School, has emerged from the deep piney woods of south Arkansas to challenge at-large council member Phil Mendelson (D) in the September Democratic primary.

Actually, many things have occurred in Ray's life since his departure from Smackover, an oil boomtown in the 1920s, where, according to the city's chamber of commerce, petroleum is "still being produced in tidy amounts."

But the road from Smackover to the District:

Ray came east after collecting a degree in education at the University of Arkansas; he earned a master's degree in sports management at Temple University in Philadelphia. Ray then signed on as sports information director at American University, where he worked from 1989 to 1991.

That was followed by stints with Bill Clinton's presidential campaign and in the White House, and later as chief of staff to Tipper Gore in Al Gore's 2000 campaign.

Along the way, Ray encountered Anthony Williams, who was then chief financial officer at the Agriculture Department. The two men linked up again when Williams became D.C. mayor; Ray landed the job of Williams's neighborhood services director.

And that helps explain why the man from Smackover believes he's steeped enough in the cares and woes of this city to make a difference on the D.C. Council.

Ray has worked all over the city, mostly under the radar, as a neighborhood services staffer, handling the nuts and bolts of government service delivery at the block level. It meant coming into contact with community leaders and residents on the nitty-gritty issues of daily living. He also worked with the D.C. Sports and Entertainment Commission.

Ray went on to become a foot soldier in Adrian M. Fenty's 2006 run for mayor and served on Fenty's transition team. That led to his appointment as the new mayor's neighborhood services director.

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